Akash Ambani, the 30-year-old son of Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) chief Mukesh Ambani, was on June 28 named as the new chairman of Reliance Jio Infocomm, the conglomerate's telecom arm.
The junior Ambani, a graduate of the prestigious Brown University, has been associated with the operations of Jio since 2014, and was inducted as a member of the board in May 2020. He was serving as a non-executive director before being elevated as the chairman of the board of India’s largest telecom network with over 420 million subscribers.
His elevation as Jio chief recognises the specific contributions made by him to the company's digital services journey and re-dedicates him to even higher levels of responsibilities, RIL sources said.
Akash is said to be closely involved with the "creation of the digital ecosystem around Jio’s 4G proposition". He is now leading the creation of the ‘convergence dividend’ for over 500 million consumers, digitally and with high-inclusivity across geographies and income levels, said the sources cited earlier. He is credited with working closely with the team that invented and launched an "India-specs focussed Jiophone" in 2017. The phone, say gadget experts, became a "revolutionary device" to take many people out of 2G to 4G.
The force behind major acquisitions
Akash is learnt to have personally led key acquisitions made by Jio in the digital space in the last few years, including the takeover of online music streaming service Saavn in March 2018. Following the latter's merger with JioMusic, a combined entity of $1 billion was created.
He was further involved in the decisive acquisitions of Radysis Corp, a Nasdaq-listed telecom in June 2018; Tesseract, a deeptech startup in August 2019; and AI-firm Haptik in April 2019.
Akash is also considered to be the force behind key investments made by Jio — one of the most recent being the takeover of a 25 percent equity stake in US-based deep tech startup Two Platforms for $15 million.
Role in bringing Jio on global map
Akash, according to RIL insiders, was integrally involved in the trailblazing global investments by tech majors and investors in 2020, which in many ways catapulted Jio onto the global investor map.
Jio Platforms, the parent entity of the telecom major, had raised over Rs 1.18 lakh crore between January and July 2020. The amount was raised against a stake of 25.09 percent which was cumulatively taken over by 11 global investors.
The investors included L Catterton, PIF, Silver Lake, and General Atlantic Singapore, among others.
Leadership revamp ahead of IPO
The appointment of Akash as Jio Infocomm chairman was combined with the announcement of Mukesh Ambani resigning as the company's director.
This is part of a well-executed succession plan by Mukesh Ambani and hints at more succession-related announcements in the future, RIL sources noted. Mukesh Ambani, who is passing on the baton to the next generation, will remain chairman of the holding company Jio Platforms and also the larger RIL group.
The clarity in Jio leadership also marks a step towards the company's preparation for an initial public offering. RIL had announced in 2019 that Jio would be moving towards an initial public offer (IPO) within the next five years. The listing of Jio is expected to be counted among India's biggest IPO moments.
Disclaimer: Moneycontrol is a part of the Network18 group. Network18 is controlled by Independent Media Trust, of which Reliance Industries is the sole beneficiary.